Jill Zarin Gets Real About Managing Anxiety, Depression After 'Housewives' : 'I'm Medicated Now'

Ahead of her appearance on Peacock's Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club, Jill Zarin opens up to PEOPLE about what's changed since she was last on reality TV

Former RHONY Star Jill Zarin Launches Noshes for Nurses to Feed Hospital Workers
Photo: Getty Images

Jill Zarin is returning to reality TV this month, the Real Housewives of New York City alumna joining seven other former Housewives in Peacock's The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club.

But while she promises fans will see "the old Jill back they remember from season 1," the entrepreneur and mother of one tells PEOPLE in this week's issue that there's one major difference to her approach to life in front of the cameras these days.

"I'm medicated now," Zarin, 58, says. "I suffer from anxiety and partial depression. I didn't realize it before, but I wound up going to doctor and was prescribed medicine for it."

She went on to explain how her anxiety and depression previously affected her time on reality TV.

"It would cause this circular thinking that I couldn't break out of it," recalls Zarin. "When I was on RHONY, I would constantly talk about the show. If something was bothering me — say I was getting hate from the fans and I was upset about it — I would talk to Luann [de Lesseps], I would talk to Ramona [Singer], I would talk to my mother, my friend, my agent, my late husband, my daughter; it was 24 hours a day. Others could let these things roll off their backs, but I had this ailment that prevented me from doing that. I was hypersensitive to everything going on around me and quite paranoid that there were things going on I didn't see. It wasn't healthy for me."

"Now, I take an antidepressant and it's really changed my life," she adds. "Things don't bother me as much as they did. I'm a lot calmer. It's just one of the changes I've made in my life I think fans will be surprised to see."

The Real Housewives of New York City
Bethenny Frankel and the season 1 cast of The Real Housewives of New York City. Jay Sullivan/NBC/Getty

Zarin was one of the founding members of RHONY when the show premiered in March 2008, starring alongside de Lesseps, Singer, Bethenny Frankel and Alex McCord. After four seasons, Zarin was let go from the series during a major cast shakeup.

"The show went in a different direction and my life went in a different direction," she says, looking back. "And in a way, it was a good thing, because I got to spend all that time with Bobby."

Bobby is Bobby Zarin, Jill's late husband who died in 2018 at the age of 71 following a prolonged battle with anaplyastic thyroid cancer. His funeral was covered on season 10 of RHONY.

"For years before his death, Bobby and I enjoyed as much time as we could," Jill shares. "We traveled, we visited with friends, we soaked up every moment until we couldn't anymore. He inspired me to not waste time in living life to the fullest."

He also inspired Jill to get the help she needed. "I got clinically depressed around the time Bobby got very, very sick," Jill says. "I was taking care of him and I was scared that he was going to die. I would just cry out of nowhere, even on days where he was doing okay. It was a nervous system issue and that's what prompted me to see a doctor to really address it."

jill zarin
Bobby Zarin with his wife Jill and stepdaughter Ally Shapiro. jill zarin/instagram

Since then, Jill has been all business, focusing on her growing brand and charitable endeavors like her annual luxury luncheon in honor of Bobby to raise money for the International Thyroid Oncology Group.

"I came into my own being as an entrepreneur," Jill reveals. "Before I did the show, I was a buyer at a department store, and then I became senior executive and a president of Jockey hosiery. I married Bobby, and worked with him at Zarin Fabrics. I had a lot of experience, a lot of relationships, and used those to grow Jill Zarin Home."

Her portfolio includes everything from rugs to bedding to furniture, plus accessories like candles, throw blankets and pillows. She and her daughter Ally Shapiro, 31, even have their own line called Jill and Ally, which started by selling face masks during the pandemic and expanded into a full range of apparel, bags, jewelry, glassware, and more. Both have been carried online and in stores like Saks OFF 5TH, Target, Macy's, and Kohl's.

"I'm proud of everything I've done," Jill says. "I've really made a name for myself in affordable luxury home goods. And it's because I knew my brand; I knew people thought of Zarin Fabrics when they thought of me, so I went down that path. It's like my tagline used to say: 'I am who I am and I own it.' I'm living my tagline."

THE REAL HOUSEWIVES: EX-WIVES CLUB -- Season:1 -- Pictured: Jill Zarin
Sophy Holland/Peacock

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And part of owning it includes Jill's awareness that not everyone is going to be "Team Jill."

"Look, if you don't like me, you're never going to like me," she says. "But I think you'll see on Ultimate Girls Trip that I've really matured. I'm still that empathetic, opinionated friend I've always been — because that's really who I am, and you become more of yourself as you get older — but I also feel lighter. I'm a better Jill."

The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip Ex-Wives Club premieres on Peacock June 23.

For more on Jill Zarin, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE — on newsstands now.

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